FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Self-care is crucial for stress management | Health, Medicine and Fitness

“If you don’t take time for your well-being, you will have to take time for your illness. “

This is an anonymous quote that I recently re-shared on Facebook because it really resonated with me. I had been through months of intense stress and wasn’t taking the time to take care of myself – and I was starting to feel the negative effects physically. In today’s busy world, we all find ourselves more stressed than ever.

Work, household chores, parenthood, care, sports and extracurricular activities, lack of finances, etc. Then add in something like a major pandemic and everything associated with it – stress overload.

FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Discover all the services provided by the U of I extension

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2020 Stress in America report, nearly eight in ten adults (78%) say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives. Other major stressors include healthcare, mass shootings, jobs, money, climate change, and immigration.

A little stress in our lives can actually be helpful in motivating us to get things done, but if we don’t deal with stress effectively or find an outlet, it can become chronic and have negative effects on our mind and our body.

When we are under stress, our body produces the hormone cortisol which in large and continuous doses causes depletion of chemicals in the brain and brain cells, reduces immune function and bone density, increases weight, pressure blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. and can increase the risk of depression and mental illness. It has even been shown to accelerate biological aging at the cellular level, which can shorten lifespan.

It is therefore important to practice self-care or stress management techniques to prevent these negative effects from occurring. There are a wide variety of ways to deal with stress, with some techniques being more physical like walking, gardening, or yoga, and others more mental like meditation, reading, or listening to music.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, but your stress reducer should be something that helps you relax, is calming and pleasurable, makes you feel good, and most importantly, you can incorporate it into your life on a regular basis. According to the APA, the most commonly used stress management techniques are listening to music, exercising, watching TV, and surfing the Internet.

Here are other proven ways to reduce stress:

• Look for humor and laugh every day. Laughter and humor reduce tension and stress, decrease depression, and strengthen the immune system, which contributes to overall health.

• Practice gratitude. Positive thoughts and the emotions that accompany them counteract the negative effects of stress. Recognizing and giving thanks for the positive aspects in life can improve mental and physical health.

• Plan something fun. The anticipation of future events generates excitement and energy in that expectation. Put something on your calendar that you can look forward to.

• Practice mindfulness meditations. Mindfulness not only reduces stress, but also lowers blood pressure, symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and chronic pain, improves working memory, emotional regulation, well-being and immune response. . It also helps with concentration and attention. There are a variety of practices or exercises that include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, body scans, and even mindful walking and eating.

So this is a great list of strategies for managing and even reducing stress, but how do we take the time to do them? Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I will share ways to take time to take care of yourself and also ways to help you hold yourself accountable and stay on track.

For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read other helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms, call us at 217-345-7034 or contact Cheri Burcham at cburcham @ illinois. edu Also visit the Family Files blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files

Cheri Burcham is the Family Life Educator at the U of I Extension.

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